Sunday, October 11, 2015

Laws of physics hold not only for Volkswagen

As predicted, Mercedes, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi also have emissions an order of magnitude above "test" numbers

From the beginning of the Dieselgate around September 21st, I've been bothered by lots of things about the hysteria. It is clearly a great example of the insanities that become unavoidable when the society is overregulated, governed by bureaucrats detached from the real world and technology and inventing lots of arbitrary restrictions on the products. The people and corporations have to live so they obviously have to find their way through this jungle of counterproductive regulations.

But one of the issues that has touched me at the deeply ethical level was the way in which the Volkswagen Group was singled out. It has always seemed basically obvious to me that the emissions from diesel cars of different brands have to be basically the same. I wrote, among other things,
However, the emissions that have been manipulated also include the oxides of nitrogen. And those are harmful, I think. However, I don't really believe that different diesel cars differ so terribly much from each other when it comes to NOx emissions. All of the diesel motors burn the diesel fuel and it must chemically mean pretty much the same thing.
Needless to say, I was attacked by the brainwashed Volkswagen bashers and ecomentals.

On Twitter, Mark Luffel sent a message to me:
@lumidek There's no evidence to your claim that all car makers cheat this way.
I wrote his that he didn't know the history of these things because Renault, Volvo, Honda, and Ford have been caught as cheating during emissions controls in the past. Luffel changed his tune to the following:
Ok, sure. That was 17 years ago. They paid their fines and stopped their fraud. VW will do the same. They don't need our sympathy.
I replied to him that my point was that I caught him that he was drawing his conclusions from his ignorance of the facts.

But aside from some random investigations in the past, there is this more important point. Even without particular analyses of other carmakers in the past and the present, it is spectacularly wrong to say that "there is no evidence that other carmakers have cheated [in recent years]".

There is huge evidence that they did. The evidence is called the known laws of physics and chemistry!

At temperature \(T\), the mixture of \(P\) percent of diesel fuel and \(100-P\) percent of the air gets transformed to various other chemicals including those we consider pollutants and all their concentrations \(C_i(T,P)\) are determined by the universal laws of physics and chemistry, regardless of the brand!

So if the car doesn't pump any additional chemicals to the motors, e.g. if it doesn't "urinate" there, the result must be pretty much the same. The engine engineers of the top corporations surely know their job – and they are interested in the improvements achieved by their colleagues from other companies – so they know what they should roughly do about \(T,P\), and perhaps a few other parameters that I have omitted, if they want the motor to work optimally – well, nearly optimally, whatever the current knowledge etc. allows.

If the real-world emissions of Volkswagen diesel engines exceed the regulatory limits by an order of magnitude, it is physics – totally basic principles of natural sciences if not common sense – that imply that the real-world emissions of diesel engines from other brands have to basically do the same thing. With the same chemistry and temperature, they simply cannot emit a substantially lower amount of the oxides of nitrogen! In other words, physics and chemistry predict that all the people who single out Volkswagen are either brainwashed morons or deliberately nasty unjust jerks – perhaps including the people who have shorted the company and plan to file a frivolous lawsuit against it, too.

Needless to say, this prediction has been confirmed by the empirical data. Two days ago, in the text
Four more carmakers join diesel emissions row,
journalists in the Guardian have reported the measurements by "Emissions Analytics", an eco-company of a sort, that has found that Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Mazda, and Mitsubishi also have much higher NOx emissions than what is written on the paper. Unnamed 4x4 models had 20 times the NOx limit coming out of the exhaust pipes. Some Honda models emitted 6 times the limits on NOx, and so on.

It is really obvious that it has to be like that. The laws of physics and chemistry apply regardless of the brand and hype! You can't have a miraculous engine that burns the same fuel, achieves about the same power and fuel economy, but reduces some emissions by orders of magnitude. And if you happened to find such a miraculous design, by adjusting something that is important but I have overlooked it and I can't imagine what it is, others would probably emulate you very quickly.

If you don't believe that Nature is governed by the universal laws of physics, there is another hint for you to see that all other carmakers in the diesel business had to do something "basically" equivalent. If some of them had been "clear", they would already start to spread the slogans about their diesel cars' being "really clean", unlike some competition. None of the carmakers has said or could have said such a thing because it's not true and it can't really be true. All of them are pretty much on the same ship – and the laws of Nature are the most important thing inside the ship. (I am convinced that the whole global community of the diesel engine engineers has to know – and discuss – about the need for similar tricks and they must have a consensus that those tricks are necessary given the existing stringent standards.)

So assuming that people will start to return to their senses, they will first understand that this "scandal" has no extra relationship to the Volkswagen Group. Volkswagen may have been (suicidally?) explicit in stating that the goal of their utility was to cheat in emissions tests, but others – while less explicit – have to do something basically equivalent. The would-be affair is a bureaucratic problem affecting all the producers of diesel cars in the world and the regulation of them.

Second, hopefully, all people (not just the Czechs, see below) will realize that what has been found is not that "the diesel cars' emissions are too high". This is a way too sloppy or demagogic statement. The more correct description is that
the difference between the real world emissions of diesel engines and (minus) the regulatory limits is too high
and if you want to simplify this statement, the right way to simplify it is obviously the opposite one than one I started with:
The maximum NOx content allowed by the regulatory limit is too low!
It is too low because the world has been demonstrably doing totally fine even though the personal diesel cars have exceeded the limits by a factor of five or more! The world has seen no widespread problems with people's lungs that could be associated with the diesel engines etc. even though all diesel engines (without some contrived chemistry) have exceeded the regulations basically by an order of magnitude. Whether you like it or not, this is a proof that the regulation was totally useless – pure harassment! And because most of the regulators masturbate while enforcing these limits, it is an example of the sexual harassment, too.

To summarize, the only right reaction to this would-be "scandal" is to allow much higher NOx concentrations for personal cars – or eliminate the regulation on NOx in these products altogether – and admit that the carmakers have behaved appropriately given the pressure to violate the laws of physics that they were exposed to. Anything else is either a deliberate attack by the Luddites on harmless technology – or the industrial civilization in general; or a continuation of the practice in which there will unavoidably be a huge gap between what is happening in the real world and what people say or demand or write on the paper.

Czech public about the "scandal"

On Friday, the Czech news server wrote about the "four carmakers join" story as well. I was happy to see the discussion under the article.

Almost all Czech commenters agree with Jeremy Clarkson that the regulators are those who have created this problem ("Brussels" is often mentioned as a symbol of these annoying apparatchiks although it should probably be mainly the "D.C." in this case); that chemistry works regardless of what the environmentalists scream (another commenter wrote that "regardless of what the activists say, when it has to ride, it has to stink, too"); that the "fix" will mean a downgrade of the cars (replacement by scooters for kids, as someone said) and no owners of the "affected" VW cars who have posted comments will search for such a "fix"; in the more accurate tests, Škoda fared better than other carmakers. A commenter wittily said that he believed that other carmakers don't have a software utility to find out that the emissions measurement cycle is underway; but he can guarantee that they have a utility that finds out that the emissions measurement cycle is not underway. ;-)

Someone wrote a popular comment: "Stop writing about this Dieselgate nonsense! I would like to know how many people look at the emissions numbers in the tables while purchasing a car. Don't people prefer to care about the reliability, design, fuel economy, gadgets, and power? We may need even stronger limits [irony] and things will be fine. We will return to horses again. This affair is mostly media hype. VW cheated, it will pay some fine and we can go on, right?"

Some people suggest that this anti-Volkswagen hysteria may have been deliberately created by the U.S. politicians or other powerful Americans who like the idea to cripple the European economy. Some other commenters disagree, claiming that the "scandal" was created mostly by the international activists, not "politicians". People offer lots of interesting remotely relevant extra factoids. For example, 16 largest ships in the world create more emissions than the world's cars combined.

By the way, the price of the "affected" Volkswagen cars on the free market hasn't changed at all – unless you consider a 0.06% decrease "something". Free people understand that nothing damning about the cars has been found at all. You may see that some people's claims that VW has reduced the value of their car is just a plain lie (it would be a lie even if the price dropped because VW itself wouldn't be the cause of the recent change). It's just various pro-big–government people who want to force everyone to believe that something has dramatically changed about Volkswagen or the diesel technology.

In Czechia, the sales of new VW Group cars in September have seen a much higher (by 40%) growth rates than the other brands. 5 Škoda models, 1 Volkswagen model (Golf), and 1 Seat model (Leon) are among the 10 best-selling models in Czechia; the rest are 2 Hyundai and 1 Ford. No impact of the Dieselgate can be seen in those numbers, either.

Off-topic: A Czech guy sent me a new video about the video game named Lumo – which is why it appears on this blog (it's an acronym of my name, a nickname I've used for 30 years) – which is a dream of the retro gamers that has become true. More information.

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